In the strangest of moments come some of the most meaningful lessons of life. And in serving others out of the truest of love comes the purest joy imaginable.
I had the honor of serving my grandmother Friday evening at Jackson's Hospital in Montgomery. It wasn't penciled into my schedule at all. In fact, what I had planned for the evening was putting a carefully seasoned roast into the oven and being lazy at home after a little baseball practice. But when I talked to my mother on Friday morning, something spoke to my heart. And I am truly glad I listened.
Thursday morning, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital with a possible stroke. There's no way to know for certain what had happened - she had fallen and remained confused. Thursday night, she had stayed alone in the hospital room, the family feeling secure with her being there as she was hooked up to a bed alarm and had nurses to attend to her. But Friday morning when my uncle arrived to check on her, she burst into tears. She was frightened by a bad dream during the night. When my mother told me they were going to call the company that supplies sitters to my grandparents' home, I felt like it should be someone she knows and loves by her side, not a stranger. How would a stranger comfort her if she were scared in the night? Knowing my mom could not do it at this point in her life, I felt like the next best thing would be me. So I volunteered to stay with my sweet grandmother Friday night.
When I arrived around 6:00 in the evening, I discovered that she was in a semi-private room. Words cannot express the sheer panic that ran through me. No offense, but staying with an elderly person - truly elderly - brings about certain experiences that would make anyone uncomfortable. And I just wasn't sure that I could handle being in the room with one I loved dearly and one who was a perfect stranger. But when I being to talk to my grandmother about what was going on, and I realized how truly confused, disoriented, and frightened she was, I knew I could stay in a room of ten elderly people to make her feel more secure.
She was scared. She was paranoid. She had absolutely no idea where she was. And she began to cry as she told me she thought someone was doing something to her. I don't remember ever seeing my grandmother cry in my whole life. But the smile on her face was the biggest I'd ever seen when I asked if it would make her feel better that night if I stayed with her. Her response was this: "I'd love you forever!!"
So I settled into the vinyl recliner beside her bed after we had watched a few hours of TV together - the Olympics, not my favorite thing to watch at all, but what do you say to a 90 year old woman? I watched her as she drifted off to sleep for the first time of the night - I watched her movements, and in that moment I thought of my daughter. It's something about what they do with their hands and the way they hold onto fabric with their fingers that is so incredibly similar. It was just the strangest realization that they are so much alike without having been around each other that much. It was comforting to know that somewhere in our genes remains this common thread that's not quite as obvious as the color of the hair or eyes. Similarity. Sense of family. Relation to one another.
I thought back to my days as a child - when my grandmother gave up her job outside the home and began working out of her small third bedroom in the back of her house to take care of a nervous and scared little girl - scared to be left at daycare while mom went back to work, and so nervous about the whole ordeal that she began having physical symptoms of anxiety. Yes, my grandmother did that for me.
I thought back to the days I stayed at her house - the snacks she'd fix me. Saltines with real peanut butter on top with bananas. She'd fix me a boiled egg every morning. I thought back to the evenings I spent the night at her house - the palette she would fix for me on the floor and the way I would lie there listening to the strange sounds of a house not my own. I just kept thinking about the way she had loved me and taken pride in me all those years, and how I never could have imagined her in the state she is in now.
And so I listened to her every time she got up that night and left her bed. I listened to her fears and confusion and tried to calm her and bring her back into the reality of where she was throughout the night. I prayed for her, thanking the amazing God I have for all these years with her and for everything she had done for me along the way, but also asking Him to take her quickly - please don't allow her to suffer when the time comes for her to go home.
There were things that still surprised me about my feeble grandmother in the weakest state I've ever seen her. She was still trying to take care of me, even going so far as leaning over the side of her bed to pull the blanket over my feet to keep me warm. She also told me she didn't know how she'd ever repay me, and I just laughed inside thinking, "She wants to repay me for one night when she's done so much for me all these years." But that's just who she is - always thinking of others.
It was an amazing night with her - one I will never forget. To have the blessing of being a comfort to someone who means so much to you... it's just a joy I've never experienced before. If given the chance or the need arises again, I'd do it again. But what I hope comes of it is this - that she knows by my service to her how much I love her and appreciate her. Whether all that sank in on a cognitive level, I don't know. But I hope her heart read it - I hope her heart could feel what my heart was saying to hers.